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Old 02-15-2012   #41
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Originally Posted by tequila View Post
I think one of the things the last ten years has re-taught us is that popularity is largely irrelevant in the wider case (especially of the sort done by polling firms in war zones), though certainly it can sway individuals - what is more important is control, either through military coercion or overriding popular legitimacy.
I'd think a simple calculation of who's most likely to win would trump either popularity or attempts at control. Nobody wants to be one of those who supported the losing side when the dust settles, for good reason... so people will stay on the fence, try to avoid antagonizing any armed force in their neighborhood, and lean toward whoever they think will win. Survival is a powerful motivator.
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Old 07-11-2012   #42
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Default Taliban: 'We cannot win war in Afghanistan'

An odd newspaper story citing an unnamed veteran Taliban fighter, except the interviewer was Michael Semple, an accomplished ex-UN diplomat in Afghanistan until expelled by Karzai:
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Any Taliban leader expecting to be able to capture Kabul is making a grave mistake. Nevertheless, the leadership also knows that it cannot afford to acknowledge this weakness. To do so would undermine the morale of Taliban personnel. The leadership knows the truth – that they cannot prevail over the power they confront...It would take some kind of divine intervention for the Taliban to win this war...At least 70 per cent of the Taliban are angry at al-Qaeda. Our people consider al-Qaeda to be a plague that was sent down to us by the heavens...To tell the truth, I was relieved at the death of Osama [bin Laden]. Through his policies, he destroyed Afghanistan. If he really believed in jihad he should have gone to Saudi Arabia and done jihad there, rather than wrecking our country.
Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...ghanistan.html

There is a bit more on the original publisher's website:http://www.newstatesman.com/politics...member-taliban
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Old 08-04-2012   #43
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Default Money & Recruiting: two reports

Hat tip to Circling The Lion's Den for the pointers to two studies, the first on ' Haqqani Network Financing: The Evolution of an Industry' for CTC @ West Point by Gretchen Peters:
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Her groundbreaking study shows in some detail how this remarkable Afghan clan has been able to build up unique cash-generating business enterprises to finance its very effective campaign against the Karzai government and its Western allies. From its base in Pakistan's North Waziristan - where it exists with the blessing of the ISI - the Haqqanis have created a mafia-like empire that now stretches across Pakistan and into the Gulf.
Link to report:http://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/u...ort__Final.pdf

Secondly, from a rather unusual angle IMO:
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The European Asylum Support Office has published a report on Afghanistan aimed at providing information to support government officials who assess asylum applications from Afghan nationals....gives an overview of Taliban strategy for the recruitment of fighters......Many interesting little nuggets in this report which also contains a very detailed bibliography.
Link to report:http://www.statewatch.org/news/2012/...ecruitment.pdf

Link to Circling The Lion's Den:http://circlingthelionsden.blogspot.co.uk/
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Old 09-11-2012   #44
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Default Briefing Paper: Taliban Perspectives on Reconciliation

As yet unread RUSI Report:
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With the Western military draw-down in Afghanistan drawing closer, attention now turns to the shape of the post-2014 political settlement. Some form of accommodation with the Taliban will be required for a stable and secure Afghanistan....presents the findings of discussions with senior Taliban figures, suggesting that the Taliban and the international community may in fact have reconcilable positions.

This paper works to draw out the Taliban's views on three key issues:

International terrorism and the Taliban’s links with Al-Qa’ida and other armed non-state actors
The potential for a ceasefire
Parameters for conflict resolution and continuing presence of US military bases.
There is a short podcast too:http://www.rusi.org/publications/oth...504A22C99538B/
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Old 09-13-2012   #45
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"Beware of Taliban bearing gifts of moderation."
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Old 09-14-2012   #46
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Originally Posted by Kiwigrunt View Post
Outstanding article!

Glad that somebody has his eyes open
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But I think I have said enough to show that, as the Manual says, while the principles of war remain unchanged, “The tactics and characteristics of the inhabitants and the nature of the theater of operations may necessitate considerable modification in the method” of their application to warfare on the North-West Frontier of India. – Gen Sir Andrew Skeen 1932
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Old 09-14-2012   #47
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Default The official Taliban response

Hat tip to Circling the Lion's Den for providing the comments by the official Taliban to the RUSI report:http://circlingthelionsden.blogspot....-wants-to.html

Quote:
in July, the Taliban wasted no time in characterising Semple's contact as "mentally insane" for suggesting that many Taliban supporters regarded al-Qaeda as a "plague".

This time, the four unnamed Taliban figures interviewed say that the organisation's leadership and base deeply regret their past association with al-Qaeda and that they would obey a call by Mullah Omar to renounce any links and prevent them operating on Afghan soil. They are even willing to allow US forces to stay on Afghan soil under certain circumstances......

....in a statement issued to mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban reiterated its attitude towards al-Qaeda: "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan once again clarifies to the entire world including America that we are neither a threat to anyone nor will we let our soil be used to harm anyone. It is our due legal and religious right to defend our homeland and establish in it an Islamic system and we shall continue with our sacred struggle and Jihad against the invaders until we attain this right and we sincerely believe in being victorious in achieving this ambition and defeating the enemy."
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The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns this malicious and strictly propaganda based report of the said think-tank and declares it has no plans of prolonging the American invasion of Afghanistan even for a single day. Our religion, national interests, national pride and values forbid us from making such illegitimate deals or agreeing to the continuation of invasion or accepting their revolting presence due to fear and our own safety. We believe that this report by the so called think-tank, based on the opinions of a few anonymous faces, is fabricated and consider it the direct work and move of the intelligence circles prepared for its people and for raising the moral of its defeated troops.
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Old 09-14-2012   #48
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Originally Posted by JMA View Post
Outstanding article!

Glad that somebody has his eyes open
I pretty much agree with what he says: I don't think the Taliban are moderate in any way, and I don't think they've any interest in negotiation or compromise, except as a charade intended to move them closer to winning.

What I missed in the article was any clear sense of what the author thought should be done. He wrote previously on the subject here:

http://www.defenceiq.com/air-land-an...-nation-build/

Quote:
How to win in Afghanistan: A lesson in nation building
On this subject I find myself agreeing with him less. His version of the core question:

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The dilemma here is patent: How to nation build in a country that largely doesn’t need electricity, is tribal, and regards foreign intervention as hostile? How to win the approbation of diverse tribal populations that spend as much time feuding with each other as they do any centralised authority in Kabul?
I'm not sure the dilemma really is how to nation-build or win approbation. I'd have to ask why we feel the need to nation-build or win approbation.

Certainly it makes sense to evaluate the Taliban honestly, but I don't think failure to evaluate the Taliban honestly is at the core of the difficulties in Afghanistan. That place to me is occupied by unrealistic goals: the perceived "need" to build a nation in a place that is not a "nation" as we understand the term, and the desire to leave behind a government recognizable to Americans as a functioning democracy. I don't think those objectives were ever realistic or necessary, and I can think of no straighter road to failure than the adoption from the outset of unrealistic and unnecessary goals.

If we assume that nation-building and winning approbation are the goal, then maybe the author's recommendation (agricultural development) makes sense. I suspect, though, that the ends need re-evaluation more urgently than the means.
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Old 09-15-2012   #49
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I pretty much agree with what he says: ...
Im sure the author will be absolutely delighted to hear that...

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What I missed in the article was any clear sense of what the author thought should be done.
Well that is probably because the article was a counterpoint to the one mentioned in the text. So his argument was plain and simple ... don't trust the Taliban.

...but, hey, don't let that stop you from putting a few hundred words together to express what you think should be done.

Give it a try...
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But I think I have said enough to show that, as the Manual says, while the principles of war remain unchanged, “The tactics and characteristics of the inhabitants and the nature of the theater of operations may necessitate considerable modification in the method” of their application to warfare on the North-West Frontier of India. – Gen Sir Andrew Skeen 1932
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Old 09-16-2012   #50
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Im sure the author will be absolutely delighted to hear that...
I'm sure my approval means as much to him as yours, which is to say nothing at all.

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Well that is probably because the article was a counterpoint to the one mentioned in the text. So his argument was plain and simple ... don't trust the Taliban.
"Don't trust the Taliban" is an easy enough thing to say, and not quite rocket science... has anyone proposed that we should trust the Taliban? I'd add "don't trust the Karzai Government", "don't trust the Pakistanis", and possibly a few others.

I'd be interested to hear your opinion of the other cited article by the same author, the one in which he offers a prescription. This one:

http://www.defenceiq.com/air-land-an...-nation-build/

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Originally Posted by JMA View Post
...but, hey, don't let that stop you from putting a few hundred words together to express what you think should be done.

Give it a try...
I've never made any secret of what I think should have been done. I think the effort should from the start have focused entirely on finding and destroying the Taliban and AQ, with no effort at all to govern or to build a nation, beyond providing opportunity for Afghans to figure out for themselves what they wanted as a government. Once the finding and destruction was deemed adequately done I think we should have left, while we still had the upper hand, with a simple message: don't make us come back. I don't think we ever needed to install democracy or build a nation in Afghanistan. We needed to assure that whoever ended up governing after we left knew that attacking us or sheltering those who did would bring inevitable and awful consequences.

We didn't do that, of course, and the policy that was adopted has backed us into a corner from which I can propose no attractive exit. If "winning" means transforming the Karzai regime into a functioning government, we've set the bar for a win in a very unrealistic place. It's a bad place to be and we shouldn't have put ourselves there.

I don't think anyone is proposing negotiations or a settlement because they trust the Taliban. I see it as a device to contrive some sort of superficial settlement that could give an excuse for a (not very) face-saving exit. It's not a great way out, but what's better? As long as the Taliban have sanctuary in Afghanistan they can be suppressed but not fully defeated. As long as US forces in Afghanistan are large enough to require supply through Pakistani territory, leverage on Pakistan is limited, and even if forces were reduced to a level not requiring that support it's not clear that Pakistan would be willing or able to shut down sanctuary.

It's just a bad place all around and the best way to manage it would have been to not get into that situation in the first place. Too late for that, obviously. Sooner or later we will withdraw, with or without a face-saving strategy. The place will probably fall to pieces. Maybe next time round we'll be smarter.

In short, I don't think we should be looking for better ways to install governments and build nations, I think we should be looking for strategies that don't involve installing governments and building nations.
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Old 09-16-2012   #51
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I've never made any secret of what I think should have been done. I think the effort should from the start have focused entirely on finding and destroying the Taliban and AQ, with no effort at all to govern or to build a nation, beyond providing opportunity for Afghans to figure out for themselves what they wanted as a government.
Dayuhan, on this I agree on all but one point: Why do you include the Taliban on your target list?

I suspect if we would have been even a little bit more savvy on the nature of Afghan culture and Pashtunwali, that we could have worked a deal with Mullah Omar regarding his AQ guests that would have resolved much of this before it ever really began. That is equally true of what President Clinton did/failed to do prior to 9/11 and what President Bush did/failed to do after.

We have made this all about us as we choose to understand and define the problems on our terms. But of course, as you well realize, it isn't about us at all. Nor is it about Islam. We brought this to the people of Afghanistan and dragged them into our world. Now they are making us deal with theirs.

A lot of bad understanding and bad decisions have been compiling for over a decade now. There is no graceful way to walk away from that. Now we worry more about our grace, and our honor. This is one where need to just swallow our pride and walk away. The reasons we use to justify why we must stay were never accurate, so there is no reason we should allow them to hold us there any longer. That is one comment that Clint Eastwood probably got about right in his conversation with a chair the other day.
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Old 09-16-2012   #52
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I pretty much agree with what he says: I don't think the Taliban are moderate in any way, and I don't think they've any interest in negotiation or compromise, except as a charade intended to move them closer to winning.
We can't tell any different about the U.S., right?
It's not like the state Department would go into negotiations with Afghan central governance and (fake) democracy as mere bargaining chips.

The U.S. overthrew a government on the cheap, chased all its actual enemies from the country.
That's usually when wars end. Mission accomplished, time to go home.

But then the extremism showed and the real war only began. Chasing the enemy from power and out of the country? Not enough. Extremists want more. A puppet state with a puppet government, that's needed! Not just any puppet government, but one of a specific model. And it must not include the political arm of the defeated enemy in any way.

Seriously, who's more extremist in Central Asia?
The Taliban are at least fighting at home.



Moreover, this entire conflict may be rested on a similar confusion about what the other side wants as the Vietnam War.
The Americans believed in the 60's that red Vietnamese were the spearhead of Communist world revolution, intent on pushing the first domino piece.
Meanwhile, the actually quite nationalist North Vietnamese wanted to re-unite their country and believed the Americans wanted indirect, imperialist rule over Vietnam - all of it.

I dare you to tell me there's no similar major misunderstanding floating in and about Afghanistan.
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Old 09-16-2012   #53
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I'm sure my approval means as much to him as yours, which is to say nothing at all.
touche

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"Don't trust the Taliban" is an easy enough thing to say, and not quite rocket science... has anyone proposed that we should trust the Taliban? I'd add "don't trust the Karzai Government", "don't trust the Pakistanis", and possibly a few others.
No, you are missing the point again.

The US is about to cut-and-run once again. Precedent indicates that the US politicians will attempt to cover their withdrawal through some sort of negotiation process real or bogus.

So the message should go out to the US government and those supplying troops to ISAF that, yes by all means pull out of Afghanistan, but don't try and sell the world a crock in the process.
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Old 09-16-2012   #54
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Default How to walk away?

Bob Jones just posted in part:
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There is no graceful way to walk away from that. Now we worry more about our grace, and our honor. This is one where need to just swallow our pride and walk away. The reasons we use to justify why we must stay were never accurate, so there is no reason we should allow them to hold us there any longer.
How to extricate ourselves is clearly on the political agenda and Bob is right that creating a message to explain this is causing agony in the "corridors of power". After over a decade of "the mission is to confront AQ and ensure Afghanistan is not used as a base to launch attacks from", how do our politicians explain to the domestic electorate, those who gave support (including the nations who have left ISAF already) and those who have watched without commitment?

Just to remind readers "the mission" explained remains the same, here is the UK Defence Secretary a few days ago:
Quote:
The ultimate measure of success must be the extent to which we can leave Afghanistan in a state that will continue to deny its territory to international terrorists.....Even if we had achieved nothing lasting, every year that goes by keeping the bombers at bay, keeping them off our streets, is a significant achievement in itself. But we have clearly built the basics of a future that will deny the space of Afghanistan to those who would seek to harm us.
Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...fore-2014.html

First step I would argue is being truthful to oneself. Time to ditch "the mission is".

There is no popular support now for "staying the course" and so supporting the Karzai / Kabul regime. Boredom, expense, deaths and injuries all have a part at home.
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Old 09-16-2012   #55
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Posted by Bob's World

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Dayuhan, on this I agree on all but one point: Why do you include the Taliban on your target list?
Ditto

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We have made this all about us as we choose to understand and define the problems on our terms. But of course, as you well realize, it isn't about us at all. Nor is it about Islam. We brought this to the people of Afghanistan and dragged them into our world. Now they are making us deal with theirs.
Well said, we created a false narrative that made the Taliban the center of our effort in Afghanistan, and in the meantime took our eye off the bubble (AQ) for several years. We conflated to different issues, and in so doing created several additional challenges that frankly made us look foolish to much of the world.

Quote:
A lot of bad understanding and bad decisions have been compiling for over a decade now. There is no graceful way to walk away from that. Now we worry more about our grace, and our honor. This is one where need to just swallow our pride and walk away. The reasons we use to justify why we must stay were never accurate, so there is no reason we should allow them to hold us there any longer. That is one comment that Clint Eastwood probably got about right in his conversation with a chair the other day.
Honor does and should matter. Honor can't be measured and assessed, but it is a factor that influences decisions people make on all sides of this conflict that has much more influence than economic factors (nation building). In our case it partly defines who we as a nation because it constrains our behavior. Excluding AQ, it seems all players involved are trapped by their honor on an intractable course that has no meaningful end. Hindsight is always 20/20, but ideally we wouldn't commit to courses of action that put our honor at risk. We should have never tied our honor to armed nation building.

As you implied, it is somewhat difficult for any politician at this point to say oops we got this one wrong. It would go entirely against the narrative we created. I suspect the only hope for disengagement from nation building to diplomatic engagement and assistance is to gradually change the narrative over time, which it appears we're doing.
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Old 09-16-2012   #56
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Dayuhan, on this I agree on all but one point: Why do you include the Taliban on your target list?

I suspect if we would have been even a little bit more savvy on the nature of Afghan culture and Pashtunwali, that we could have worked a deal with Mullah Omar regarding his AQ guests that would have resolved much of this before it ever really began. That is equally true of what President Clinton did/failed to do prior to 9/11 and what President Bush did/failed to do after.
I include the Taliban because the rule should have been (IMO of course) that those who attack us or those who shelter those attackers will face awful and inevitable consequences. Of course the Taliban should have been - and were - given a chance to turn over bin Laden and his group voluntarily. I see no reason why savviness of Afghan culture or Pashtunwali needed to be an issue there. It is always good to understand others, but there are also times for making ourselves understood. This was one of them. I think if we'd cast our mission purely and explicitly as revenge, a concept well understood in that part of the world, and made it clear that we'd be out of there as soon as our business was finished, we'd have had an easier time.

Of course nobody knows where the path not taken would have led, and I could be wrong.
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Old 09-16-2012   #57
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No, you are missing the point again.

The US is about to cut-and-run once again. Precedent indicates that the US politicians will attempt to cover their withdrawal through some sort of negotiation process real or bogus.
The US has belatedly realized that it's pursuing a pointless effort with slim to zero chance of achieving the inflated objectives posed by mission creep. Efforts to reverse that policy are in progress. If that's "cut-and-run", so be it. What would we have them do, bang their heads against that wall for another decade to demonstrate persistence?

Yes, there will probably be some effort to prop up some kind of (not very) face-saving resolution. This is not unique to the US, nor will it surprise anyone.

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So the message should go out to the US government and those supplying troops to ISAF that, yes by all means pull out of Afghanistan, but don't try and sell the world a crock in the process.
No, you are missing the point again.

They aren't trying to sell anything to the world... why would they? They only need to sell it to the American voter, and the American voter is perfectly willing to buy the crock. They want to get out of there, and any charade that creates a justification for getting out of there is good enough
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Old 09-16-2012   #58
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I see no reason why savviness of Afghan culture or Pashtunwali needed to be an issue there. It is always good to understand others, but there are also times for making ourselves understood. This was one of them.
Good point. Sort of like what Napier told the people who were complaining that the suppression of suttee was not respectful of a different culture. I believe he said more or less you go ahead and follow your cultural practice, and if you do we will follow ours which will be to kill you. We sort of did that but didn't go far enough.

But as you say, we will never know. And it is a pretty big distortion of the concept of sanctuary to say they couldn't give up AQ.
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Old 09-16-2012   #59
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I was reading some of the articles in this thread and figure we actually have a lot to work with on the negotiation front.

First, it appears that some of the high ups in Taliban & Co realize they can't take over the country even when we bug out.

Second, they don't like AQ and wish they would go away.

Third, one thing Taliban & Co and the Afghans have in common is they both hate the Pakistanis.

Fourth, some of the higher ups in Taliban & Co are talking up the possibility of negotiations. It doesn't matter much if they will turn out to be really serious about it or if it just a ploy, it is something that can be exploited.

In the RUSI article, the id's of the people interviewed can be easily accerned (sic) but those guys are still alive. So maybe there is some genuine support for negotiations of some kind. Even at MO's level, maybe.

Sixth, though the Haqqanis profess fealty to MO, there seems to be some uncertainty if that will be the case in actuality.

Seventh, MO is a critical person.

So it seems there are a lot of potential avenues to pursue to cause dissension in the ranks over there. I don't know exactly how to do it but these guys don't seem all that certain and united.

The most critical thing would be to somehow, someway (and I don't know how) to get them physically away from the Pak Army/ISI. But maybe that wouldn't work because MO is too deep in the ISI pocket to ever come out.

So that leads to bumping off MO. Can he be replaced or is his personage so important that if he were killed, the Taliban & Co and Pak Army/ISI nexus would unravel and the thing would turn into a confused mess?

There are things that can be exploited. The bigger question is can we, the US led by our betters inside the beltway, exploit these things. I am not hopeful, recalling how we were had by a shopkeeper from Quetta and continue to be had by the sahibs in 'Pindi.
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Old 09-16-2012   #60
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Third, one thing Taliban & Co and the Afghans have in common is they both hate the Pakistanis.
(...)
Seventh, MO is a critical person.
Questions;
Whom do you mean with "Pakistanis"? The government of Pakistan? ISI? Army? People? Pakistani Taliban?

Whom do you mean with Taliban & Co.? Afghan Taliban? Pakistani Taliban? All Taliban? Leaders, zealots, supporters, mercs?

MO = Mullah Omar? What do you mean with "critical"? If he's hiding as UBL did, doesn't that mean he's cut off from comm? How is a central figure "critical" if the Taliban are scattered over two countries, often in segments at mere platoon strength with a charismatic local leader (AFAIK)?
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